Putin to defend Russia’s Internet

Russia needs to defend itself from a rising number of cyber attacks from outside the country, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday, adding that the Russian government was already working on protective measures.

Putin told a meeting of Russia’s security council that “certain countries” were trying to use their global dominance in IT to achieve not only economic, but also political and military goals.

“They are using IT systems as instruments to realise their interests through so-called soft power,” Putin said according to an official transcript.

Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev said after the meeting that Russian internet sites had suffered more than 57 million cyber attacks in the first six months of this year, up from 3.3 million in all of 2010.

Patrushev, a former head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, suggested that the high number was connected to the conflict in Ukraine and the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Interfax reported.

He said that foreign intelligence services were “actively taking part” in the attacks.

Putin did not say how Russia would counter the attacks, but Russian communications minister Nikolai Nikiforov said after Wednesday’s meeting that Moscow would set up infrastructure to fend off any “destructive actions.”

Russia has drastically increased state controls over the internet recently, with authorities blocking thousands of websites under rules introduced last year. Putin said in April that the internet was a CIA-inspired project.

Last week, Russian lawmakers introduced legislation that bars foreigners from holding more than 20 per cent of national media outlets, arguing that the country needs information sovereignty.

The bill – which threatens the existence of foreign-owned publications like Russian Forbes and the newspapers Moscow Times and Vedomosti – was approved by the upper house of parliament on Wednesday, meaning that it only needs Putin’s signature to pass into law.

Putin was adamant Friday that Russia wouldn’t restrict internet access for its citizens and respect press and freedom of information.

“There will be no unfounded limitations, particularly no total control, and we are not even contemplating this,” he said.

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Putin to defend Russia’s Internet